Amazon's Echo range updates take the smart speaker fight to HomePod

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2019
Amazon has used its special event to launch new Alexa-powered devices in the Echo range, including the Echo Studio speaker, a refreshed Echo, and the Echo Dot with Clock.

Amazon Echo Studio
Amazon Echo Studio

Echo Studio

Amazon's "Echo Studio" is a jumbo-sized addition to the Echo smart speaker range, and offers the same core functions as the rest of the device family. Just as usual for an Echo, users can ask Alexa questions and requests, which are then carried out or answered by the speaker itself or connected devices.

For this interpretation, Amazon seeks to improve the audio quality to offer a higher-quality sound, bringing it into the same territory as the premium Apple HomePod. To facilitate this, Amazon has included three midrange speakers for the left, right, and top, with a directional tweeter at the front, and a 5.25-inch bass driver in the base feeding sound out of the bass port.

Supporting 3D audio and Dolby Atmos, Amazon calls it the "most innovative speaker we have ever built." The unit also borrows the idea of automatic tuning of audio to match the room from the HomePod, which can further help with sound quality.

An internal shot of the Echo Studio
An internal shot of the Echo Studio


Framing it as the main central speaker of the home, with other Echo devices as tertiary offshoots for less-important rooms of the house, Amazon is trying to enmesh the Echo collection further with smart home setups. While Apple has its HomeKit system for smart home device connectivity, Amazon's existing Alexa-based system continues to be a major force in the field, and the new device helps Amazon fill out the home network by plugging the premium audio gap currently serviced by the HomePod.

Since Amazon's Echo lineup is dominating the low and mid-tier smart speaker market, it makes sense for Amazon to make a play for higher tiers.

Amazon did not advise of when it will ship, but did confirm it is available to preorder today, priced at $199.99.

All-New Echo

Revising the original product in the Echo range, the main "All-New" Echo is similar to the existing model, consisting of a cloth-covered smart speaker with Alexa capabilities, but with some new color options.

Amazon's 'All New
Amazon's 'All New" Echo


In this refresh, Amazon is focusing on improving the audio, by adding the neodymium drivers and other speaker hardware included in the Echo Plus into the normal version. This should improve the audio for users, but it remains to be seen whether it will reach HomePod levels of quality.

Available to preorder today, the new Echo costs $99.99

Echo Show 8

Following the launch of the Echo Show 5 from July, Amazon is extending the range to include the Echo Show 8 alongside the 5 and the original Echo Show. As the name suggests, it includes an 8-inch HD-resolution display, as well as borrowing the audio system from the Echo Show.

Echo Show 8
Echo Show 8


Just like the Echo Show 5, Amazon has included the privacy-focused camera shutter, which lets users manually prevent the device from using the camera with a physical block.

Available to preorder today, the Echo Show 8 costs $129.99.

Echo Dot with Clock

Offering a combination of the Echo Dot with an alarm clock, the Echo Dot with Clock is just that. Taking the appearance of the third-generation Echo Dot with the fabric surround, the updated version includes a segmented illuminated LED clockface that shines through the side.

Echo Dot with Clock
Echo Dot with Clock


Aside from the clock feature offering a nine-minute snooze, the device is pretty much a regular Echo Dot in form and function. The extra display will be used for the time, timers, and to show the local temperature.

Amazon is opening preorders for the Echo Dot with Clock from today, priced at $59.99. The existing Echo Dot will continue to be sold, albeit without the extra visible clock.

Echo Glow

More an accessory to the Echo range than a main device, the Echo Glow is a multi-color smart lamp that pairs with Alexa. Serving as a nightlight, users can ask Alexa for it to be turned on and off.

Echo Glow
Echo Glow


It is also possible to make it cascade through a variety of colors, flicker like a campfire light, function as a disco light for parties, and to slowly dim using a Sleep Timer.

Available to preorder in the U.S., the Echo Glow costs $29.99.

Echo Flex

The Echo Flex is a compact Echo unit that resides in a power socket, rather than being a freestanding device. Amazon admits the speaker isn't high quality, but is tuned to work with Alexa's voice, with the device capable of answering the usual Alexa queries.

Echo Flex
Echo Flex


The main element of the Echo Flex, aside from its size, is the built-in USB port, which can be used for recharging a smartphone or other device. More interestingly, as it has an interface API currently undergoing development, it could be used to connect to extra accessories in the future, such as a motion sensor, which can influence other network-connected devices.

The Echo Flex is available for pre-order starting today, priced at $24.99. Future accessories are tentatively priced at $14.99 each.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    Imagine how barren and ugly the IT industry would be, without Apple around to show everyone how it's done...
    StrangeDayslkruppkozchrisScot1pscooter63zroger73watto_cobrabadmonk
  • Reply 2 of 31
    Imagine how barren and ugly the IT industry would be, without Apple around to show everyone how it's done...
    Hello Magman! (recognized you from MacRumors!)  :D


    Agreed, but the lines are blurred lately. Look at routers. Apple had the nicest looking routers, but then the industry surpassed them. Competitors have finally started taking the "fashion design" route with products because outwardly appearance is important to consumers when faced with the options. No longer are computers dumb boxes to be shoved under a desk, but they are an appliance that stands out in the world. Smart Speakers take that a level further.

    I'm trying to think of what a Smart Speaker would look like without this new focus on design. Maybe like this?


    magman1979
  • Reply 3 of 31
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,469member
    What's most surprising is that Amazon does an amazingly fine job of controlling product leaks. No one had any idea what to expect in the way of Amazon hardware or features or services set for announcement today. Compare that to Apple and Google where pretty much every detail  of every device leaks before anyone makes it to the stage and announces them. 
    revenantmuthuk_vanalingambigtdsphilboogieCarnage
  • Reply 4 of 31
    That cutout on the Echo Studio model is a really strange detail in combination with the fabric. 
    StrangeDayspscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 31
    gatorguy said:
    What's most surprising is that Amazon does an amazingly fine job of controlling product leaks. No one had any idea what to expect in the way of Amazon hardware or features or services set for announcement today. Compare that to Apple and Google where pretty much every detail  of every device leaks before anyone makes it to the stage and announces them. 
    Maybe Just no one care to leak it or post it.
    JapheyStrangeDaysScot1pscooter63Carnagegenovellewatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 31
    This echo is a must buy.

    finally I can find a place to put my keys. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 31
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,042member
    Genius design of the Studio model! Just stick CDs in slot to play.
    magman1979StrangeDaysCarnagewatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 31
    Imagine how barren and ugly the IT industry would be, without Apple around to show everyone how it's done...
    Hello Magman! (recognized you from MacRumors!)  :D


    Agreed, but the lines are blurred lately. Look at routers. Apple had the nicest looking routers, but then the industry surpassed them. Competitors have finally started taking the "fashion design" route with products because outwardly appearance is important to consumers when faced with the options. No longer are computers dumb boxes to be shoved under a desk, but they are an appliance that stands out in the world. Smart Speakers take that a level further.

    I'm trying to think of what a Smart Speaker would look like without this new focus on design. Maybe like this?


    Good god, did that come out of the door panel of a 1970's era Dodge van???
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 31
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 3,042member
    What does the Glow do when thrown against a wall?
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 31
    Like HomePod it makes sense for Amazon to produce devices that makes it easy to spend money with them. If you want to play music through Echo or HomePod, you need to subscribe to the relative music service at $10/mo. This was a deal breaker for me: it appears to me that HomePod can't be asked to play music already contained in a iTunes library on the same wifi network. I suspect Echo is the same way.
  • Reply 11 of 31
    Man that premium echo is fugly. Gross.

    As for leaks...well, obviously, Amazon's hardware is in much less demand with much lower sales volume. There is little market for leakers to sell leaks to because who cares? That being said it was rumored they were going to release an AirPod-like item.
    magman1979watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 31
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,170member
    Man that premium echo is fugly. Gross.

    As for leaks...well, obviously, Amazon's hardware is in much less demand with much lower sales volume. There is little market for leakers to sell leaks to because who cares? That being said it was rumored they were going to release an AirPod-like item.
    Most people I know have the Echo Dot, not the more expensive versions. So yes, I think these premium models are in less demand with much lower sales volume.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 31
    eightzero said:
    Like HomePod it makes sense for Amazon to produce devices that makes it easy to spend money with them. If you want to play music through Echo or HomePod, you need to subscribe to the relative music service at $10/mo. This was a deal breaker for me: it appears to me that HomePod can't be asked to play music already contained in a iTunes library on the same wifi network. I suspect Echo is the same way.
    This isn't true for either device.  There is no need to sub to Amazon Music or Apple Music.  On the HomePod you can AirPlay any music service you have on your transmitting device.  Free Pandora for instance.  On the Echo devices you can stream any music service via BT.  The Echo Studio also allows you to use Siri or Google Assistant instead of Alexa.  Now both devices smart services work best with their own ecosystems, but those services aren't required if you just want to stream music.  

    On topic:  The speakers' specs say it's going to sound decent and at $199 the price isn't bad.  I'd have to hear it of course, but initial impression... not bad, not bad at all. The first thing I'd do if I got one is turn off the mics (which I'd do with any smart speaker).  
    edited September 2019
  • Reply 14 of 31
    Idea for a future Apple or Amazon (or Google) product for families:  Wall plug-in units which are able to track individual family members in a house (based on device they have on them or by learning who they are by appearance) and this system would act like the Star Trek universe’s inter-ship communication system. Anyone could ask the system where a person was, then route their voice to a nearby plug-in to communicate with that person directly. For more advanced systems, they should be able to communicate remotely with a parent or relative (especially if their health or mobility is an issue and they are at another house or facility).
    edited September 2019 watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 31
    Man that premium echo is fugly. Gross.

    As for leaks...well, obviously, Amazon's hardware is in much less demand with much lower sales volume. There is little market for leakers to sell leaks to because who cares? That being said it was rumored they were going to release an AirPod-like item.
    No.

    This is the KING of fugly:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/mac-minimalist/4266616581
  • Reply 16 of 31
    AB101 said:
    Man that premium echo is fugly. Gross.

    As for leaks...well, obviously, Amazon's hardware is in much less demand with much lower sales volume. There is little market for leakers to sell leaks to because who cares? That being said it was rumored they were going to release an AirPod-like item.
    No.

    This is the KING of fugly:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/mac-minimalist/4266616581
    Eh, I think you're referring to the flower-power print, which isn't great to me, but the basic shape & design of the iMac isn't ugly; it was heralded for its design in fact. 

    This is thing is just fugly.


    edited September 2019 pscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 31
    Imagine how barren and ugly the IT industry would be, without Apple around to show everyone how it's done...
    Well I would say that since this new Echo Studio is not only cheaper, but offers a lot more.  This Echo Studio supports 3D audio, Dolby Atmos, surround sound.  Plus it can run 3D party apps, play games, and a lot more than any HomePod could ever dream of.   Plus this Echo supports more conectivity options, where as the HomePod only supports AirPlay.

    Honestly I believe this Echo Studio is hitting the final nail in the HomePods coffin.
    bigtds
  • Reply 18 of 31
    Imagine how barren and ugly the IT industry would be, without Apple around to show everyone how it's done...
    Well I would say that since this new Echo Studio is not only cheaper, but offers a lot more.  This Echo Studio supports 3D audio, Dolby Atmos, surround sound.  Plus it can run 3D party apps, play games, and a lot more than any HomePod could ever dream of.   Plus this Echo supports more conectivity options, where as the HomePod only supports AirPlay.

    Honestly I believe this Echo Studio is hitting the final nail in the HomePods coffin.
    Yeah but how does it sound? My HomePod is for music, movies, and home automation. I cannot see replacing it with this pumpkin despite the "a lot more" you're alluding to.

    What are the other nails? What are the numbers on the HomePod? Units sold, revenue, profit...? Surely we must know these to know whether there is any likely discussion of death of the product?
    edited September 2019 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 31
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Imagine how barren and ugly the IT industry would be, without Apple around to show everyone how it's done...
    Well I would say that since this new Echo Studio is not only cheaper, but offers a lot more.  This Echo Studio supports 3D audio, Dolby Atmos, surround sound.  Plus it can run 3D party apps, play games, and a lot more than any HomePod could ever dream of.   Plus this Echo supports more conectivity options, where as the HomePod only supports AirPlay.

    Honestly I believe this Echo Studio is hitting the final nail in the HomePods coffin.
    Yeah but how does it sound? My HomePod is for music, movies, and home automation. I cannot see replacing it with this pumpkin despite the "a lot more" you're alluding to.

    What are the other nails? What are the numbers on the HomePod? Units sold, revenue, profit...? Surely we must know these to know whether there is any likely discussion of death of the product?
    Surely you must know that we don’t need facts or figures when it comes to “predicting” failure for Apple. 

    Carnagegenovellewatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 31
    Imagine how barren and ugly the IT industry would be, without Apple around to show everyone how it's done...
    Well I would say that since this new Echo Studio is not only cheaper, but offers a lot more.  This Echo Studio supports 3D audio, Dolby Atmos, surround sound.  Plus it can run 3D party apps, play games, and a lot more than any HomePod could ever dream of.   Plus this Echo supports more conectivity options, where as the HomePod only supports AirPlay.

    Honestly I believe this Echo Studio is hitting the final nail in the HomePods coffin.
    i suspect that Amazon is going to have egg on their face when Apple finally unveils a HomePod mini. They’ll point out that for 150 you get a device that’s half the size of the Echo studio and sounds better. 

    My HomePod is the nicest speaker I’ve ever owned. The only complaint that I have is the bass on it can’t be turned down with an EQ do even at low volumes other people in the house complain if I use it. But when nobody else is home I thoroughly enjoy the room filling sound. (If you want an album that really shows how great a HomePod sounds, put on Ben Platt’s debut album. 

    I do think that Apple needs to bring down the price of HomePod or release a less intense version. Like one that has sound quality similar to Sony’s Bluetooth speakers. 

    As it is right now we are switching over to having more HomeKit accessories in my parents house, but that means that they need to have an iPhone or iPad in the room in order to use Siri to turn on lights or control the thermostat. If you’ve left your phone in another room charging it’s not great. 
    gatorguywatto_cobra
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